Don't Pay the Ransom -- I've Escaped
Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know. I've been one poor correspondent, and I've been too, too hard to find.
But that doesn't mean you ain't been on my mind.
I guess mostly, I've just been busy. With work and web sites (PAYING WORK!), plus the usual slings and arrows of the vaguely domesticated male, plus promotional work for Sister Golden Hair's upcoming masterpiece, the third in her Poetic Death mystery series, entitled SONNET OF THE SPHINX.
Yep -- Mrs. Thrilling Detective Web site writes cozies, shocking as it may seem -- although probably not as shocking as my startling ability to quote dopey soft rock lyrics from the seventies. Next up, the Eagles... or maybe Helen Reddy.
But despite this shocking blow to my "cred,", the crime goodies keep coming to this reviewer, under the door, over the transom and down the chimney, whether I have time to review 'em or not. And the latest one is a little two-DVD set, courtesy of the good folks at Subversive Cinema, entitled BLUE MURDER.
It has nothing to do with David Firks et al's late, great hard-boiled e-zine, except that this 1995 Australian docudrama about police corruption in the Land Down Under also revels in the sort of nasty hard-boiled things that usually scurry for shelter when the lights come on -- the same sort of stuff that the e-zine, at its best, did so well.
The men at work in this mini-series originally done for Aussie TV are, for the most part, very nasty blokes -- hoods, thugs, psychos and the like. And that's just the police. Their drinking buddies and partners in crime are theoretically the "bad" guys from the other side of the line, but the only thing that seems to separate them from the cops are badges and a pension plan -- and a lack of delusion about who and what they are. The crooks, at least, admit they're crooks. The cops, meanwhile, are full of some of the most infuriatingly self-righteous rhetoric seen since the last episode of THE SHIELD (which BLUE MURDER's promotion frequently mentions), trying to justify their ill-gotten gains as their well-deserved price for saving the world from total anarchy. It's a contemptible position, whether it's Sydney or Los Angeles or Montreal, made all the more harrowing by the slack-jawed matter-of-factness with which they -- and most of the rest of the police force -- even the "good' ones -- accept it as par for the course. It says something that the only reason the powers that be eventually go after much-decorated Detective Sergeant Roger "The Dodger" Rogerson and his buddy, violent thug Neddy Smith, is that they went "too far" by trying to kill another police officer.
As though all their other crimes -- perjury for hire, the armed robberies, the stolen goods, the fixed trials, the elimination of witnesses, the profit-sharing plan between cops and robbers -- are just part of the job. It's this true-to-blue, lads-will-be-lads, and up-yours-if-you-don't-like-it, ya pansy! attitude that makes BLUE MURDER so compelling -- and so infuriating. I mean, shit -- gimme an honest crook over a self-righteous crooked cop any day. Especially in real life.
Unfortunately, the show, fascinating as it is at times to watch, suffers exactly because it is "based on a true story." The filmmakers' hands are tied when it comes to crafting truly killer scenes -- and the plot suffers from it, jerking from episode to episode and set-piece to set-piece, never really gaining as much narrative steam as it should. And it doesn't help that there are no really sympathetic major characters, save perhaps the young officer who stands up to Rogerson -- and gets blown away (halfway through the show) in front of his young daughter, for his troubles. And he's not around enough to really make an impact. In fact, none of them -- even Neddy and the Dodger -- are really examined up close.
Too bad, because a looser, more fictionalized take on this same story, complete with some real character development, and produced without worrying about whether it was true or not might have made for something really nasty. As it is, it makes for a good entertaining wallow, but not a great one.
Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it's usually not as entertaining.
I'd give it three Fosters.